Collecting has been my great extravagance. It's a way of being. I collect for the same reason that I eat too much: I'm one of nature's shoppers.
~ Howard Hodgkin, contemporary British painter
Welcome to Show & Tell Sunday, hosted by Cindy at Junque Art. This week's topic is collecting, and Cindy asked us to share one of our favorite vintage collections. That's a very difficult assignment, because most collectors have lots of favorite collections (actually, I think all of my collections are favorite collections :o)
Creative women often have dozens -- or even hundreds -- of collections, and those collections can often be divided into sub-catagories and even sub-sub-categories. Our passion for one particular type or color of item may lead to the discovery of previously-unknown or under-appreciated items, which become the basis of yet another collection.
pyrex, correlle, & corningware waiting to be listed on ebay
The thrill of the hunt is hard for a non-collector to understand: the thrill that gets us out of bed before dawn on weekend mornings to comb through garage sales, estate sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and even piles of trash. Emotional value takes precedence over market value, and the desire to own a particular object often baffles family members and friends.
collection ... [is] an obsession organized. One of the distinctions between possessing and collecting is that the latter implies order, system, perhaps completion. The pure collector's interest is not bounded by the intrinsic worth of the objects of his desire; whatever they cost, he must have them.
~ Joseph Epstein, aka Aristides - editor of The American Scholar
I was planning to share part of my quilt collection today, but most of my quilts are at my office/studio, and I am writing this from home. So I'll be showing you a few items from my vintage linens collection instead, which were neatly tucked away in my home linen closet. Most of the linens in these photos were stiched by me or my Grandma Alice -- who I called Gaga -- and the handmade edgings were made by Gaga's sisters, Dorothy and Jo.
I'm late with this post, due to the unexpected passing of my fabulous father-in-law on Friday evening, less than 12 hours after I had written about my inlaws in my Friday My Husband Rocks post. Many thanks in advance for keeping our family in your thoughts.
Gaga started teaching me to sew and embroider long before I started kindergarten. I learned cross stitch first, on store-bought doilies, runners, samplers, dishtowels, and pillowcases, some with pre-stamped designs and others where I got to choose an iron-on transfer from Gaga's large collection. I learned to separate six-strand floss into two- or three-strand sections, how to successfully thread a large-eyed needle, and how to tie a knot that held the thread in place without making an unsightly lump when my finished projects were laid flat.
one of my first tea towels ~ I was 6 yrs old
With the patience of a saint, Gaga taught me how to do a backhand running stitch and how to make a french knot. She taught me the secrets of Lazy Daisy and Chain stitches, and how to hold the hoop and needle just so, to turn my tight, deflated stitches into gracefully open and curved petals.
pillowcase stitched by me, age 8 to 10 ~ crocheted edging by my Great Aunt Dorothy
Gaga's house -- directly across the street from my mom and dad's house -- was 100% authentic Depression Era kitsch. Gaga's pillowcases and sheets were meticulously embroidered by herself or one of her two sisters -- Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Jo -- who rode the bus from Minnesota to California for their annual visits. Gaga's dishtowels were wonderfully soft hand-embellished linen or woven cotton, and many were made from flour sacks or cut-down tablecloths. Mom's dishtowels were "modern" terry cloth in brightly colored prints; they left lint on dishes, and on table tops when used for dusting. I learned the difference at an early age, and have always loved the softer, homier type of linens.
Little Dutch Girl & Boy appliques and embroidery on flour-sack dishtowels, handmade by Gaga ~ you can see the flour-sack seam on the lefthand side of the above photo
Gaga and I would save our completed handwork until Dorothy and Jo arrived mid-summer, to add the finishing touches. Dorothy crocheted and Jo tatted, adding beautiful handmade lace edging to anything they could get their hands on. The three sisters -- and their six brothers -- had grown up without electricity or indoor plumbing, in a farmhouse where every scrap of fabric was valuable, where worn-out items were repurposed multiple times, and where utilitarian linens and quilts were luxuriously dressed and placed with care into three matching hope chests.
Gaga, Dorothy, and Jo taught me the sewing skills they mastered in preparation for becoming wives in the first quarter of the 20th century. They also taught me patience, conservation, and thrift, and instilled a life-long love of handmade items and lovely linens. From them, I learned embroidery, quilting, and how to turn gingham into smocked pillow tops. I learned how to make something from little-to-nothing, why I should save bits and bobs of ribbon and trims, the beauty of vintage fabrics, and the joys of a canning jar filled with buttons.
one of a pair of pillowcases I inherited from Gaga -- these have never been used, and may have been a part of her trousseau or a wedding gift from her sisters